Secrets to a Great Hotel Stay

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You want your vacation or business trip to be memorable in all the right ways. So what should you do to ensure your hotel stay meets expectations? We all want the basics–clean premises, crisp sheets, Internet and television access. After that, how do you make the right decisions about your temporary digs?

A good place to start is researching rates and looking at photos and reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor or Travelocity. Do you prefer something quaint like a B and B or boutique hotel, or something generic like a Sheraton or Hilton, where you have nearly the same experience wherever you travel? Is it important to be near a downtown? Is there a gym or pool on premises? Others have found eclectic and homier places by using AirBnB, which allows homeowners to rent their property by the night. AirBnB has lately come under fire for owners who discriminate; some users have suggested making your account profile generic, but it’s probably best to try to limit your search on the site to owners who are not put off by travelers of various ethnicities.

If you’re going overseas, often word of mouth is the best place to get a referral. For more unusual destinations, seek out friends who travel and get them to ask around as well. Also, “follow the cool girls.” If a certain celebrity seems to share your taste, check out her website for her travel suggestions. Further, if you think you’ve found the perfect place, go the extra mile and make a call. Is the hotel kid and/or pet friendly? Is parking included? Get a feel for the place by how you are treated over the phone.

Your local travel agent is also a wealth of information and likely has visited properties that she might recommend. Her personal experience and ongoing relationships with hotel and resort staff can make the difference between a so-so stay and a fantastic visit.

Tina Hingle, marketing manager at the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa, recommends signing up for a hotel rewards program because they keep track of your lifestyle preferences. For example, Starwood Preferred Guests create a profile, noting preferences prior to arrival so the hotel staff can make your stay more pleasant. She adds, “If you like running, you never know when the hotel will go the extra mile to make sure their treadmills are ready for your workout!”

Experienced travelers recommend asking for a room with a booster pump so your showers stay hot, and requesting either a newly renovated or corner room, which tends to be larger. Also, if noise is an issue, ask for a top floor room. Upon arrival, request a freshly washed bedspread, since those aren’t necessarily washed between visitors, and bring antibacterial wipes for cleaning TV remotes and light switches.

Andy Abramson, CEO of Comunicano, Inc., has traveled on average more than 200 days a year for the past 12 years, and in January 2015 he was named Business Traveler of the Year by Business Traveler Magazine. Although he holds Royal Ambassador status with Intercontinental Hotels and Gold status with Hilton, he considers playing the points game a gamble and prefers property loyalty over brand loyalty. “For me, that means not only the upgrade is assured, but in many cases the same room is prepared for me each stay. What staying in the exact same suites each stay means is a more home-like feel. At the Intercontinental Hotel Dieu in Marseilles, France, where I was just recently over my birthday, every, and I mean every, staff person I saw that day wished me a happy birthday.

“What’s more, as a property-loyal guest, the hotels know my likes and dislikes and keep my personalized amenity requests on file. At the new Intercontinental Estoril on the coast of Portugal, without asking, they had my preferences for fruit, iced tea, gin martinis and my in-room daily made-to-order omelet as well.”

As for pitfalls, cleanliness is one. Don’t assume that glassware, ice buckets, blankets or other common items are cleaned between guests. Ask for sealed glasses or plastic cups from the concierge. If you use the mini-bar, be careful, as it’s said that guests may refill liquor bottles with water. Keep your valuables in the hotel safe as opposed to a smaller room safe, and always tip the housekeeper to ensure he or she goes the extra mile for you.

“It isn’t hard to get good treatment,” Abramson says. “It means communicating regularly with the hotel team, getting to know the GM or manager and being friendly with the guest relations team. It also means being an extension at times of the hotel team itself, offering candid feedback, advice and sharing concerns privately so any issues or problems can be fixed. It also means not threatening to post on TripAdvisor or Yelp if something isn’t fixed right away.”

By following these tips, you can quickly go from “guest” to “friend” of the hotel. ■

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